Maybe its a call into the echoes: “does anyone see me? does anyone know I’m here? do I know I’m here?” and then recognition. A familiar face looking at you, catching you in your body: you’re here, you’re alive. those emotions on your face are the ones you’ve felt but not realized. The joy your face shows is what you hoped you’d have. You’re going to be ok
Wallace Stegner’s writes about literary idealism born in higher education (conscientiously and unquestioningly) and enduring lifelong friendship. Permeating his book, the culture of higher education is as much a character as his wife Sally. It moves and shapes tragedies, mundane parties and deepest failure. The most intimate moments are marked by quoting poets taught in academia, friendships invigorated by scholarship or the very tangible lack of it.
But as the novel progresses this idealism unconsciously fades, revealing unchanging human themes: hard work, family obligations, personal tragedies, a woman with a stubborn streak.
In the novel Stegner (I’m using the author’s name purposefully, he is as much Larry as he is himself in this novel, and his loves, I believe, are the same) is as much in love with his friend’s wife as he is with academia. Her sparkle and illimitable preferences mark his core struggle with life as much as his efforts for acceptance in academia. He loves and hates her, is eternally indebted to her, inspired by her. She provides structure to his life, and he resents her control, and her control of the people he loves that are not so successful. He is empathetic, resentful, in love, at once fully indoctrinated, and self-conscious and accepting enough to apathetically resent his own success and others’ lack of it.
(Perhaps that’s my own bias - growing up in a household so familiar with that same culture. Passed down from my grandma to my dad and then me. Rooted deep in me as I coped to not fail in dance, and then dabbled in ‘excellence’ in english lit. I understand the love of words, the yearn of academic and artistic success and failing from that world too. I think of a story Dan Allender told about the university; In medieval times the first son would inherit the estate and manage property, which included military training and protecting his lands. To make himself a livelihood the second son would join the church, perhaps run the parish for his family’s estate. The third son would join academia and teach at a university, forever battling his low position and fighting for honor at his low ‘youngest’ position. Perhaps that’s too Freudian but something rings true.)
Just as academia is the driving force in the novel, acceptance and time shape the characters. Muted grief and failure that continues day after day, as life does. We eat, sleep, rub the sore muscles and broken hearts and work, raise children, make mistakes.
I hope my life has more joy then Larry Morgan’s. That at the end of my life I can access my joy.
Facebook and instagram swallowed me whole. Six years later I was regurgitated, pop-culture competent and a Katy Perry fan. Post SNL, buzzfeed, and 300 character ideological spats I’m happy to find that my core view of the world is essentially the same: people are people, even the cool ones. And I can live my life much happier and more broadly just as I do it.
In a nyquil haze. Outside my window giant trees bloom green. Reflecting on Chris’ letter from Wendel Barry: “put your hands to something.” Existential fatigue bullies this generation into the ground. We’ve few tools to rebuild ourselves after being crushed down by the imperious demands to know WHO we are, WHY we are, and to know how to love.
Last time I was here I was lying down on my back in our lawn. It was midsummer evening, my favorite hours of the year, and in strong contrast to my rural childhood I was lying down with my head three feet from concrete, four feet from where the street’s druggie had passed out, 30 feet from a brewery, and 50 yards from a notorious dive bar. I lay down on the grass and looked into the sky and talked with Eric, the air shaded from yellow to red to dusk, like swimming in a lake we floated on the light and standing up was like diving into its depths.
Then I blinked and was here, sitting on the couch three months later with graduate school graduation, a new job, volunteer trip, birthday parties, dinners, early mornings, late nights, deadlines and responsibilities fulfilled tieing together the yawning chasm of the the last three months.
I’ve heard that the mind is like a house, with rooms and closets and cupboards, locked and unlocked - and I’m sitting in the middle of the house at an old chest full of keys, and I’m pretty sure I just dropped the last handful of reeses pieces in the chest.
Working downtown I encounter a lot of homeless people. Today I walked down first ave and saw what seemed to be a couple teasing a blind man with a severe developmental disability. I slowed down to check out the situation and the man of the couple started saying quazi-agressive things to me so I crossed the street. I stayed and peeked around the parked car to see if the situation was alright or if I should call the police-at second watch the blind man seemed to be on good terms with the couple, he followed them down the street-had I misread the quazi head lock? I still feel haunted that the couple was abusing the blind man; that he followed them because he got attention or love from them even in their abuse, or didn’t know any better - I don’t know if I did the right thing by continuing on my walk.
10 minutes later I passed by a woman sitting on the ground rocking herself in fetal position. She talked to herself and rocked-I couldn’t understand words, but there were sounds of rage and sorrow mixed together. A few minutes later I walked back down the street. There was vomit by where she had been sitting, two piles of it, and she was now pacing back and forth in front of an empty storefront, completely engaged in her own mind, vomit smeared on the back of her jacket.
After I passed the woman I went into Bartell drugs to buy some mascara, passing by a man with some sort of disability selling Real Change. He spoke like his tongue was cut off or numb, his clothes piecemealed together. As I wandered through Bartell’s his muddled voice range out every time the automatic doors opened: rea change, rea change, rea change, rea change, rea change.
It’s a new year and a sunny day outside. I feel rested, inspired, and given the New Year’s blessing to self-actualize a little more-if only I can stop checking the craigslist free listings. 2011 was a really happy year in the Borgh residence. It was my 5th year in Seattle (Eric’s 4th) and we’ve finally settled in, evidenced by the fact that I only get lost about once a month, know exactly where to find the ketchup in the grocery store, and have a “gang” of friends (think Archie comics: “Call up the gang, JugHead’s metabolism has reversed and he’s the size of a house!”). We’ve lived in the farmhouse for 2.5 years and now enjoy the presence of the woman’s roller derby and a brewery on our street. We got new housemates who delight us with their fun and thoughtfulness-I was recently handed a homemade pumpkin spice late in my to-go mug on my way out the door. I’m also learning a lot about being a real adult from them, ie, that standing up in the kitchen eating couscous out of the pot with a mixing spoon doesn’t count as dinner.
We are deeply involved with our church’s youth group as volunteers. For proof I can show you a hair curling technique that I learned from one of the girls during a five hour long hang out session or give you the definition of the word noob. But I really love those kids and being with them adds a lot of spice and joy to my live.
Eric added beekeeping and cheese making to his list of creative projects. I’ve added “learned to have fun” and “am reading again” to mine. I’ve also started playing the piano and writing a little bit more. None of that writing will ever become public, but it’s very reassuring to sit down with paper and pen and find that I haven’t gone crazy or lost my identity: Becca’s still home and has gotten a little bossy lately. Also, after the purchase of a pair of hot pink running shoes early last year I’m up and running again-which is one of my favorite arduous pastimes.
Life since high school felt like a whirlwind, 5 moves in two years, marriage, graduating undergrad, finding a job, supporting a husband through an emotionally rigorous graduate program. The last year has been a culmination of all the work we’ve done trying to make Seattle home and the huge relief we feel at experiencing stability; It’s freeing and joyful.
So from this last happy year we’re turning another chapter. Eric completes school in April and will be looking for a job as a mental health provider (nervously holding our breath until he finds that job) and I just applied for graduate school (to be a therapist-yes, we will screw our kids up), We are anticipating many fun and scary changes. Here’s to a wonderful 2011 and many hopes for a challenging and life-giving 2012!
My closeted perfectionist needs some perspective this morning (she’s still mad that I didn’t go on a run yesterday) and so I thought I’d help her out by showing some appreciation for the life I do have.
Backpacking trips with beautiful weather, hard physical challenge, and people that are different than me.
The sun outside today.
A job at a good company with great coworkers.
The bookmarks tab on Firefox.
Dreaming and imaging beautiful spaces.
The gift of writing.
Our country’s infrastructure-in awe of its complexity.
Grad school in a year.
My grandmas sand dollar necklace.
Sisters moving closer.
Getting to support a living wage for migrant workers through a CSA box.
Three years of hard work in my marriage that makes it what it is today.
I’ve always loved flowers in the house, but never thought I could afford them. However, I’m discovering that for an average of $10 a week, I can keep 1-2 vases of fresh flowers in the house. For all the pleasure and sense of ease $10 a week can give me, I’ve totally decided it’s an investment worth making.
Hi everyone! It’s been a while since I posted anything significant, and I’m excited to get into the groove of posting again. This New Years I made of list of hopes. Not resolutions, but hopes. Among them were:
Update my blog more
Get back into running
At the heart of my hopes is wanting to live life better, whittling away the extra anxieties in my life and giving more time to the things that deep in my heart and my body I want to do.
But doing what I want means giving myself grace when I fail too. I hit the ground running after Christmas break and have just finished up doing laundry from the Christmas trip to Cali. Here’s how I did with my new years hopes in the month of January:
Updated blog once
Ate Mac and Cheese straight out of the pot, slouched back on the couch after a long, long day on more than one occasion.
So I declare February my new new year, begun with a restful weekend out of town, and christened with a beautiful sunny day.
And to mark this new new year, here are some new amazing things in my life:
The snooze button. Who knew that waking up 10 minutes early and hitting snooze would be so amazing. Also, I’ve started going to bed at 10:30. Getting enough sleep has been one of best parts of new new year.
Running. Physical therapy is the new black magic. On Saturday I went for my first run in a year and a half. Now I just have to wait for it to be light enough in the evening so I don’t get raped when I go for a run.
Sufjan Stevens. It’s taken me a long time to get on the train, but I was listening to his Christmas album a few weeks ago and everything fell into place.
BDG jeans for 30 bucks. Every woman has to find her jeans. It’s more of a struggle for some than others, but every one has to put up with too low, too tight, too short, too long, too awkward, too flary, too skinny jeans. Well I found me some lady jeans, except they’re too expensive. Unless they’re on sale. And they were on sale for $30!